Dr. O’Connell Honored for His Pioneering Contributions to Medical Education

Mark O’Connell, M.D., senior associate dean for educational development and the Bernard J. Fogel Chair in Medical Education, received the 2011 national Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) Robert J. Glaser Distinguished Teacher Award Saturday for his significant contributions to medical education over the past quarter century.

The award, presented at a black-tie dinner held during the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting in Denver, was established by the AOA Medical Honor Society to provide national recognition to gifted teachers who have distinguished themselves in medical student education, which Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., noted is an apt description of O’Connell.

“No one could be more deserving of this honor than Mark O’Connell,’’ said Dean Goldschmidt, who nominated O’Connell for the award. “His pioneering contributions to information technology, curriculum design, program development and student initiatives have advanced medical education across the nation and helped propel the Miller School to incredibly greater heights.’’

Expressing gratitude for the honor, O’Connell said he has greatly enjoyed his career in medical education at UM. “I have been given amazing opportunities and resources,” he said. “I have enjoyed the support and loyalty of talented and committed colleagues. And best of all, I have worked with and mentored our medical students, some of the most fantastic and quality people one could ever hope to meet. I’m proud of our medical school and the incredible things we do and I’m thankful I can be a part of it.”

A 1978 graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, O’Connell completed his residency in internal medicine and a fellowship at UM/Jackson Memorial Hospital, and joined the Miller School faculty in 1981. Five years later, he established the Office of Biomedical Computing, gaining national attention when he opened one of the first microcomputer learning labs and introduced medical computing into the curriculum.

In 1989, as director of the internal medicine clerkship, he introduced patient-oriented problem-solving and evidence-based decision making into the curriculum, and in 1992, as a founding member of the national Clerkship Directors in Internal Medicine, he led a national effort to standardize the internal medicine curriculum and design and implement school-wide clinical competency-based assessments of students. Three years later, he established the medical school’s Generalist Education in Medicine program and implemented the interdisciplinary community-based generalist primary care clerkship.

In 1999, he led the design and implementation of lecture recording and online video streaming, making the Miller School one of the first to offer such innovative learning resources to its students. Appointed senior associate dean for medical education the same year, O’Connell was the primary architect of the Miller School’s curriculum reform, which he implemented in 2001.

He also oversaw the creation of the Educational Development Office and led the design and accreditation of the medical program at the regional campus in Palm Beach County, the development of the MD/MPH and MD/MBA programs, and the creation of a number of unique and innovative student initiatives, including the Academic Societies program, the medical student Department of Community Service, and the Professionalism and Physicianship Advocacy Program.

After his April 2010 appointment to senior associate dean for educational development, O’Connell redirected his efforts to enhancing faculty development for educators, most recently spearheading the creation of the new Academy of Medical Educators.

The first recipient, in 1994, of the Miller School’s annual Teacher of the Year Award, O’Connell is also a five-time winner of the George Paff Award for the Most Outstanding Clinical Teacher bestowed by Miller School students. In 2008, he earned the UM Faculty Senate’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

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